Demand for eclipse glasses outpaces supply
Problem exacerbated by unapproved glasses that could be dangerous
Ali Van Orman is still looking for specialized glasses to protect her family's eyes during Monday's solar eclipse because she never counted on demand totally eclipsing supply.
She tried to buy a coveted pair of solar eclipse glasses for herself and two children from Amazon back in July, but the hot commodities wouldn't have arrived in time.
Van Orman and many others are turning to social media to try to track down retailers that still have the glasses in stock. As of Thursday, supplies had dwindled in stores across Canada. Inventory status reports on the websites for Best Buy and Toys "R" Us showed the devices, which cost about $3, were sold out in many cities.
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"There's a little toy store here in Calgary. I called them and they said 'no, you are the 50th person that's phoned us,"' Van Orman said.
"It's just one of those great things that I wish that I had done earlier," she said, adding that she will investigate other options such as a pinhole camera or welding goggles. Optometrists have said that watching the eclipse without certified protection could lead to permanent vision loss.
Early birds who snapped up extra pairs before the rush are selling them for up to $40 on Kijiji.
Andy Kahrmann, spokesman for Vancouver-based pharmacy retailer London Drugs, said the chain sold thousands of pairs and B.C.'s Lower Mainland and Saskatchewan were the first to sell out.
"I personally didn't even get a pair of glasses. We sold everything we had," he said.
"A couple of speciality magazines were including viewing glasses inside the magazines. Those are even sold out."
He said the chain ordered double the amount of glasses it thought it would need, but that still wasn't enough to meet demand. The glasses didn't sell at first, he added, and by the time sales picked up, it was too late to re-order from the manufacturer, one of the more popular companies listed by the American Astronomical Society as a reputable supplier.
This week, Amazon issued refunds to customers who had bought potentially-shady solar eclipse glasses on its site, saying it could not confirm that glasses came from a recommended manufacturer.
"We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse," the refund email said. With an online retail giant out of the picture, supply is even more strained.
Canada will only get a partial eclipse, with 90 per cent of the sun covered in Victoria, to just 31 per cent coverage in St. John's. But stores in U.S. regions where the sun will be more covered sold out a week ago. One planetarium in Utah sold 21,000 pairs in a single day.
Some universities and science museums in Canada will be distributing the glasses for free at viewing parties across the country on Monday. If you can't get a hold of glasses, NASA's website recommends other ways to view the eclipse safely.
You can find out where to watch the eclipse across Canada at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
And NASA has a list of safety tips for the event.
How to watch CBC's eclipse coverage
On Monday, Aug. 21, the sun will be eclipsed by the moon. While the path of totality will stretch across a swath of the U.S. — from Oregon to South Carolina — for the first time in nearly a century, Canadian sky-watchers will be treated to a partial eclipse.
To mark this celestial show, CBC News will broadcast a live special, hosted by Hannah Thibedeau, starting at 1 p.m. ET. Watch it on CBC News Network or via live stream on CBCNews.ca. CBCNews.ca will also bring you on-the-ground coverage from sites across North America through our live blog, kicking off at 11 a.m. ET. You can also follow along on Facebook and YouTube.